From the desk of Debra E. Marvin:
Author of The Longbourn Letters, Rose Servitova’s candid preface in The Watsons intrigued me as much as the concept of someone taking on an incomplete Austen manuscript. It’s believed Miss Austen began the story around 1803, but it was no more than a partial manuscript at the time of her death. Published in that form by her nephew in 1871, the original document is safely archived ‘as is’ with her edits and revisions. Once I began Ms. Servitova’s novel, I immediately trusted her efforts—dare I say chutzpah—to be the latest to co-author with Jane Austen. What delicate kid slippers to fill!
You’ll not be surprised to learn the story centers on a particular family of a kind, well-read, possibly dying gentleman lax in providing for his adult daughters. Around them, a circle of friends and acquaintances carries on with the business of gossip and country balls. Our protagonist is nineteen-year-old Emma Watson who’s returned home unexpectantly after being a long-time ward of her wealthy aunt and uncle. Because of this, both her family and their neighbors are practically strangers to her.
“Yes. Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor- which is one very strong argument in favour of matrimony. She must marry, and I pray that it will happen soon,” said Elizabeth, “that she may rob a gentleman of his fortune and us of her company.”
Emma’s fourteen years away have produced a well-spoken and well-mannered young woman now surprised by the rather rough edges of two manipulative sisters, and the novelty of being the newest single female in want of a husband.
“Very well, my lord. If she is like her sisters, she will only want to be listened to.”
Warned by her (thankfully) warm-hearted oldest sister Elizabeth, Emma’s introduction into local society commences with a ball where she encounters the much-sought-after bachelor Tom Musgrave, the awkward but monied Lord Osborne, the opinionated Soliman Tomlinson, the unassuming vicar with a mysterious past, Mr. Howard.
“I cannot imagine anything runs deep with that gentleman. If he is an example of the specimen of person we are to meet hereabouts, we may have to cut our trip short.”
Unlike the Bennet and Dashwood sisters, Emma initially did not anticipate her role as a financial savior for her family. Nor was she prepared for suitors who were suitably obnoxious, overbearing or softly unobtrusive, set so perfectly amid the cast of entertaining local characters. Can she find a home for her heart that won’t leave her family in want? Of course. But getting there provides readers of The Watsons a pleasant, delightful tale!
Where Miss Austen’s and Ms. Servitova’s prose overlapped, I have no idea. The turns of phrase and the turn-of-that-century language were wonderful. I found many examples of laugh-out-loud quips you have the absolute right to expect. Emma has just enough pluck to stiffen her backbone when faced with family drama and the pressures of genteel society while remaining as kind and willing to mature as we’d want. After all, she must be worthy of that perfect proposal scene we’ve waited for.
For me, the pure reading pleasure here was the skill at which the author provided the ‘telling details’ of glances, facial and body language that are so very important to our perception of that era! I could easily believe this was that dreamed about, elusive missing Austen work finally found hidden behind a stairwell wall! (I still want to believe, don’t you?)
If I had any criticism of this story, it would be the very Austen-like practice of parading a long list of characters through the early chapters.
Whatever Miss Austen had in mind for her final work-in-progress is lost to us. How lucky to have such a lovely submission here as consolation. I strongly recommend The Watsons!
5 out of 5 Stars
Austenprose is delighted to be part of the
#Janeite Blog Tour of The Watsons.
Learn more about the tour and follow along with us.
Author of The Longbourn Letters, Rose Servitova, celebrates the online launch of her latest novel The Watsons, a completing of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, with a blog tour November 18 -29, 2019. Please join fifteen Austen and historical fiction blogs during the tour as they host a variety of spotlights, excerpts, author interviews, and book reviews.
- November 18 My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
- November 18 Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)
- November 19 The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)
- November 20 Austenesque Reviews (Review)
- November 20 vvb32 Reads (Review)
- November 21 All Things Austen (Review)
- November 22 My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)
- November 25 From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)
- November 25 Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)
- November 26 So Little Time… (Excerpt)
- November 27 Impressions in Ink (Review)
- November 27 Babblings of a Bookworm (Spotlight)
- November 28 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
- November 29 My Vices and Weaknesses (Excerpt)
- November 29 The Fiction Addiction (Review)
The Watsons, by Rose Servitova and Jane Austen
Wooster Publishing (October 10, 2019)
Trade paperback & eBook (256) pages
Disclosure of Material Connection: We received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. Autenprose.com is an Amazon Affiliate. We receive a small remuneration when readers purchase products using our links. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Cover image courtesy of Wooster Publishing © 2019; text Debra E. Marvin © 2019, Austenprose.com